Veronica Abrenica is a Vaughan-based community artist and one of the five artists participating in Ontario Culture Days’ Youth Arts Ambassador Program (YAAP), an exciting new initiative aimed at fostering and supporting the next generation of community artists in our province. The Arts Ambassadors are currently working on community arts projects that will premiere during this year’s Culture Days weekend in each of their regions. Read more about Veronica and the Youth Arts Ambassadors Program at on.culturedays.ca/en/yaap
I remember the first time I heard about Culture Days.
It was the early fall of 2013, a few months after I graduated from OCAD and was no longer commuting to the downtown core. I was back in Vaughan and in search of any arts and culture events in the area. I did not have many expectations or high hopes in what I could find but was surprised to stumble upon an ad for “Vaughan Culture Days”.
Attending Vaughan Culture Days that year was a pivotal moment when I started to have hope and aspirations to pursue creative endeavors in the suburbs of Vaughan. I came to recognize the talented neighbours I’ve had all along. It is through Culture Days that I discovered amazing exhibition spaces hidden in the depths of Thornhill and other areas within Vaughan that are in need of creative activation. Culture Days enabled me to believe that having a vibrant arts community IS possible in the suburbs.
Since Culture Days 2013, I have been actively engaging with the arts and culture scene in and around Vaughan and developing an arts initiative of my own, named I.AM., which stands for Intergenerational Arts Movement.
I.AM shares many of the same values as Culture Days. We aim to provide residents ACCESSIBLE community arts programming to engage the surrounding public and potential participants to explore and create through various creative means. To date, we have hosted three arts festivals, collaborated with over 30 local artists and facilitated over 10 accessible creative workshops.
Fast forward to 2016 − I have been blessed to be chosen as one of Ontario Culture Days’ five Youth Arts Ambassadors, allowing me to continue building a vibrant arts community within the area. This year’s Culture Days is a very important occasion for us at I.AM as we are piloting our very first workshop series, which spans 5 different creative disciplines hosted in the weeks leading up to Culture Days. These workshops cover: spoken word poetry, mixed media sculpture, acrylic landscape painting, traditional African dance and alcohol ink works.
The spoken word poetry workshop named Say Something is led by Shawna Dimitry, a national spoken word poet competitor and arts event organizer. She is an active part of the Richmond Hill-based Speaker Box Poetry series, and will be representing Speaker Box at her 6th national competition in April. The Say Something series will exist in four parts: 1) Say something, 2) Say something real, 3) Say it like you mean it, and 4) Say it better. Throughout these interconnected workshops, participants will be guided through the process of crafting their own spoken word poems that express real emotions and/or tell stories of events in their lives, in creative, clearly communicated, and well-performed pieces.
The mixed media sculpture workshop, Flow the Land, will be facilitated by sculptor, installation artist and arts educator, Claudia Zloteanu. She uses everyday materials to explore the notion of space and language, where traces of industry and nature become visible. Flow the Land is a workshop series that invites individuals to create sculptural works by repurposing found materials or objects in and around the JEH Macdonald House. The reclaimed objects used in the creation of the sculptures will lose their functionality, their own purpose of existence, while gaining a new identity chosen by the participants.
Our acrylic landscape painting workshop entitled Ocean Getaway will be led by none other than I.AM co-founder, Patricia Roncone. Patricia is an oil painter whose recent work focuses on nature and strongly believes that art has the ability to engage the mind, soothe the soul and heal the body. Ocean Getaway invites pairs or individuals to collaborate on creating beautiful ocean-scapes. They will be given step-by-step instructions on how to design a strong composition, use colour effectively, and add details that will render a gorgeous day at the beach.
Our fourth workshop is brought to you by Miss Coco, a dancer, instructor, and community arts programmer who primarily focuses on bringing movements, rhythm and knowledge of the African and Caribbean diaspora across the Greater Toronto Area. Miss Coco was the 2013 recipient of the Canada Dance Assembly's 'I love dance’ Community Award and has over 15 years of performance with several Toronto-based dance companies. Dance is a universal language, however there are nuances in the way some rhythms and movements relate culturally. Participants go on a vibrant journey of non-verbal communication with drum rhythms from West Africa. Participants will feel the energy, renewed and confident through this introductory workshop that leads to a final dance presentation during the Culture Days 2016 weekend.
Our final workshop, Colour Blast, is an exploration of colour through the malleable and therapeutic qualities of Alcohol Inks with I.AM co-founder Claire La Marguerite. Claire is a self-taught copper and multimedia artist. Since 2010, she has been creating and selling fashionable jewelry and daring artisan styles. She is a maker of many creative forms with a strong belief in the need for accessible arts programming within the GTA. Claire has facilitated workshops for I.AM on several occasions; her infectious positive attitude always fills a room. Participants will experience and discover the beautiful and vibrant world of alcohol inks on a variety of surfaces such as canvas, glass, metal and more.
I am very excited to watch these workshops come to life as they will play an integral part of the I.AM Community Festival for Culture Days 2016. Workshop participants will be invited to exhibit or perform the works they have created in order to give them an opportunity to extend their work(s) into the public realm, emphasizing the inclusive and accessible qualities of the workshops. Each day of the festival, workshop artists will be featured on the main level of the Macdonald House, the spoken word poets will be our showcased during the Open Mic Series, and the dancers will have their moment to shine on Saturday October 1.
Piloting these workshops and the I.AM Community Festival, has taught us many skills and we are gaining important insight on how we can improve our outreach, programming and engagement. It is an opportunity that helps us move towards becoming the rich community of creatives that I know are abundant in numbers within Vaughan.
The Youth Arts Ambassador Program and the existence of Culture Days has shown me the benefit of connecting through creativity and what this engagement means to the local community. This nation-wide event is more than an opportunity for individuals to showcase their talents. Rather, it is an event where creatives and people who don’t see themselves as artists can come together in beautiful moments of “being” through shared creativity. I know Culture Days will become part of my everyday livelihood since I.AM is all about using creativity as a vehicle for bringing people and communities together.
Be sure to check out Veronica’s and I.AM’s Culture Days workshops and sign up by September 8th. Register now!
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